AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

The Rice Terraces


Posted on Feb 22, 2014

We travelled in a clockwise direction around northern Luzon, from Manila to Baguio, to Sagada, to Banaue. Our recommendation after doing this is to do it the other way. Banaue is a dive compared to Sagada with low quality food, nasty looking buildings and the weather is not usually as pleasant. Banaue and the surrounding area is good for hiking whereas Sagada only has a few strenuous activities and is better for relaxing. Hence our suggestion of going this way round: Book the night bus to Banaue before you arrive in Manila. The only company running that route at the moment is Ohayami. They have online booking. Once you arrive in Manila you can head up the same day, flight dependent. Alternatively, stay one night in Manila. We and everyone we’ve spoken to has hated Manila. Plan a rest day after the overnight bus. We didn’t sleep on the bus (too many corners) and felt awful the next day, others we met went to bed on arrival in Banaue. Walk to the view point and then take a guide through Banaue rice terraces. You see them from above and then see them up close. If you go to Batad don’t bother with a guide unless you want to talk a bit about the rice terraces or want someone to steady you on a narrow section of wall. The waterfall is on a single path with no junctions and the rice terraces are like a giant amphitheatre and you can’t get lost. If you like trekking then I suggest a multi-day trek. A good trek is Batad-Cambulo-Pula-Banaue, two days with a one night stopover. This walk takes you through rice terraces and a forest. Leave your main bag in Banaue and take a tricycle to Batad (in the morning) and explore Batad that day. Then the next day walk through the rice terraces via Cambulo to Pula. The route is reasonably straight-forward. If you are not sure then get a guide. If you get a guide in Batad try to negotiate the price to around P600-800. Stay over in Pula; The guesthouse is the blue house you see upon arrival (located at the top of the village). It’s basic with no hot water, no shower, no meat to eat. The next day you trek through forest and reach the main road about 4km up from the top viewpoint. You can then walk or get a tricycle back to Banaue. The trek is mainly uphill and over two days you will climb 3000ft (1000m). If you don’t feel so fit or energetic you can do this trek in reverse. The start...

Read More
Baguio to Sagada

Baguio to Sagada


Posted on Feb 15, 2014

The trip to Sagada was a distance of 130km and was scheduled to take 6 hours. It would take us along the Halsema Highway. This is ranked in the top 10 deadliest roads in the world. Our bus looked like it had seen better days but I wasn’t aware of the danger the road posed so I was happy enough, although I did wonder why Annemarie didn’t look too happy. As we made our way out of Baguio the bus would stop for anyone who waved their arm. I don’t know whether the people waved at the last second or the bus driver didn’t see them, but he would slam the brakes on and come to a sudden dead stop every time, throwing us around on our seats. At these stops the bus was loaded with all manner of goods, from metal pipes, metal sheeting, huge boxes of unknown items and even a huge bowl filled with water which I think held mussels. Finally we got out of the city and the road started to climb and wind around the side of the hills. Every time we went round a corner we would slide on our seats. At first this was acceptable, but soon it became obvious that the whole journey would be like this. The road literally followed every curve and contour of the hillside, meaning there was a corner about every 2-3 seconds. The driver also preferred to drive like a racing driver, accelerate hard wherever possible and brake hard into every corner. So we slid forward just before every corner, slid side-to-side around the corner before being thrown around again with the acceleration. Just in case this wasn’t annoying or uncomfortable enough the road was not smooth and the suspension had long since given up, meaning we felt every hole and uneven section of road. That might have been OK if the road had also been closer to the bottom of the mountain than it was to the top. For most of the journey there was a huge drop off the side of the road, many hundreds of meters down to the valley floor. The driver didn’t care, he kept slamming the brakes on and throwing the bus into each corner as fast as he could. Other drivers might use the gears to control the speed but not our driver, on downhill sections he changed UP gears and went faster only to whack the brakes before the next bend. Worryingly, he sped past the signs asking drivers to test their brakes and went just as fast past the signs warning of accidents on that section of...

Read More

Baguio


Posted on Feb 14, 2014

We had taken the bus to Baguio (pronounced Bag-ee-oh) the day after Pinatubo. From Angeles it was a 7 hour journey. We had arrived mid afternoon and upon checking into the hotel we’d had an afternoon nap. In the evening we went to a nearby restaurant and spent a fortune (around £20) on a meal which was on par with a low end gastropub in the UK, but was probably one of the better restaurants in town. The next day we decided to explore this city which was founded by the Americans in 1904. It was created as a Hill Station, a place (usually in the mountains) where colonial powers went to get away from the heat. The British had many in India and Africa but this was the USA’s only hill station, obviously they weren’t exactly a colonial power unlike the European nations. Our first destination was the botanical gardens. As we walked along the road we were surprised at just how busy it was. I suppose we shouldn’t have been that surprised, over 330,000 people live in Baguio yet it has no bypass, no dual carriageways, no ring road, all the traffic is crammed into a few roads which weave their way around the hills in and out of town. The roads were heaving, filled with taxis and Jeepneys. This means the roads are very noisy and they are very polluted! Every Jeepney was belching out black smoke and most of the taxis sounded bad and were puffing black smoke. We could see the fumes in the air. Suddenly the walk didn’t seem so healthy. The botanical gardens were OK. A haphazard maze of paths lead around colourful bushes and plants. We spent a while here wandering the paths and must enjoying the cooler and much fresher air, the best air we had breathed since arriving in the Philippines. Our next destination was a viewpoint high up on the hillside on the edge of the city. We walked up the hillside, surrounded on both sides by a perfectly manicured golf course. A little further up the road were the exclusive country house resorts. Not one or two, but many, all nestled in immaculate grounds. We continued walking, constantly uphill until a reached security guard and sentry box. To get past we had to pay, but as everything worth seeing was on the other side of the barrier and the entry fee was only £1.50 for both of us we decided it was worth it. The top of the hillside is known as Camp John Hay. It covers a huge amount of land on one of the hills...

Read More